Friend or Foe?

Our discussion with Professor Sweeney was extremely relevant with everything that is going on with the FCC and their wildly stupid idea of taking away net neutrality (honestly, how have they gotten this far?). I appreciated how Professor Sweeney really encouraged us to consider jobs at the intersection of computer science and governance because most of the people in power now are not well informed about the technologies they are controlling. Her lack of hope for the future of the FTC was a sobering yet humanizing observation.

One thing she wanted to learn more about was our identity on the Internet and how that affects us. It’s strange to think that how I present myself online to the world is different from the person that I actually am. I remember when MTV’s Catfish first came out, and it was an instant hit. People related to presenting a false persona in order to receive online validation and adoration. Obviously, Catfishing is an extreme example of this, but I couldn’t help but wonder what it means to love and be loved in the age of the Internet. Why were people obsessed with making others fall in love with this persona that wasn’t even genuinely themselves? How much are we willing to lie to ourselves in order to achieve these false emotions and connections?

Also, there are different versions of ourselves that we present to others depending on how close we are to them or the professional nature of the relationship. How does the globalizing impact of the Internet have an effect on this dynamic? I think that’s why we have isolated certain cultures for certain social media sites and apps. I don’t think this is so much an attempt to project a fake identity so much as an act of professionalism. I don’t think we need to combine all compartments of our life. That being said, I’ve noticed a societal shift in what we think is acceptable to share online with the world. From self-deprecating tangents of emotional oversharing to updates about one’s location, people no longer hold the view that you shouldn’t talk to strangers through the Internet; now, it’s encouraged. I mean, that’s what the Internet promised to do, right? Connect us to others around the world that we wouldn’t otherwise interact with? This is a valuable tool to have, but it’s difficult to know where to draw the line.

One thought on “Friend or Foe?

  1. You always ask the best questions. I don’t know what the answers are. I think we’ve always shown different parts of ourselves in different environments (e.g., most people at work don’t see the family side of me). The Internet and the range of social media sites takes this to a whole new level and allows you to craft so many different yous (harder than what you could do in real life).

    Your comment about shift in what you share online has always been there. What I’m comfortable sharing wasn’t the same in my older kid’s generation. I think you’re starting to see the shift as you grow older too (you make different decisions). And this is probably only the surface differences.

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